What has happened to "traditional" steelhead flyfishing?

Discussion in 'Steelhead' started by TomB, Feb 22, 2005.

  1. TomB Active Member

    Posts: 1,620
    seattle,wa
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    This used to be a post that posed the somewhat provacative question about the degree to which nymphing egg patterns and jig-like flies under indicators was "flyfishing." After seeing many intelligent and well-constructed responses to my initial inquiry, I have decided to bow as gracefully (or ungracefully?) as I can out of the debate by retracting my original post.

    To those of you that responded already: I am by no means trying to devalue your responses, and I honestly believe that you all have added to the way I can look at the issue with your thoughtful contributions.

    To those of you that missed the opportunity to see my original post:
    Sorry, but the debate was getting heated, and I decided that I liked the merits of others' arguments better than my own.

    Respectfully,
    Thomas Buehrens
  2. Bob Triggs Your Preferred Olympic Peninsula Fly Fishing Guide

    Posts: 3,984
    Olympic Peninsula
    Ratings: +651 / 0
    As for fly fishing, I think we are still building tradition here.

    I like the old fashioned wet fly swing style myself. And I dont use indicators etc. Im not much of a "nympher". Most of my personal fishing is done with a floating line. In winter I do use some weighted heads sometimes.

    How far do we take it though? Are weighted lines and heads etc out of acceptability? Some old timers resorted to using full sink trolling lines with lead cores to get down to King Salmon and Winter Steelhead here while fly fishing. Wasnt that a part of the "tradition"? And take a look at the old-timer's pictures; almost every one is a dead-fish picture. Do we keep that "tradition"?

    One of the problems we face here is that many good steelhead holding waters are very deep and cold and flow very fast in winter. So that makes for some challenging presentation problems and solutions for fly fishers. Take a look at Jim Pray's successfiul "Steelhead Optic" patterns; they were a kind of jig really. As are many modern weighted flies, including flies tied on real jig hooks too.

    I think we can leave it to the individual, to conscience, and to the legal defined method. There are a lot of possibilities for creativity in fly fishing if we let it be that way.

    For me, if I can entice the fish to strike, without "forcing" them to take, by bumping them with the fly etc, then that is the ideal take in my mind. I want them to have the room and time to make that decision, even to go out of their way a little to do it. In winter Steelhead fly fishing conditions this is very difficult to do. Catching a wild winter Steelhead on a fly, and landing it, is a real accomplishment. Especially if you did it without snagging him on the head to do it.
  3. bhudda heffe'

    Posts: 1,946
    basement
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    hey Tom , i would put your flameretardent suit on with the quickness! some around here might not like this one. well Tom, not only can i and im sure other freaks (nymphers) like me can " get the line out" but the technique is every bit of flyfishing as tossin' a sculpin. eggs arent like the easter bunny or something. there real! the indicator is as evil as a sinking line, they kinda cancel each other out in my opinion. if you use only a dry line then you are the man!- in someones eyes, but im open to all types of FF, more gear! my 2 cents bhudda
  4. o mykiss Active Member

    Posts: 1,303
    .
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    I nymph every once in a great while for steelhead, but do not enjoy it. In fact, I guess I could honestly say I hate it. I think it is an incredibly awkward way to flyfish for steelhead. However, I have observed some very proficient nymphers who make it look relatively graceful; if I could do that, I might resort to it more often. I much prefer the traditional wet fly swing (with or without sink tips), in part because physically it is so much easier to execute and in part because the take on the swing is a lot more thrilling than watching your bobber go down and setting the hook. I have nothing per se against nymphing, as long as it doesn't involve running the fly over and over again past a spotted fish until you basically bonk it on the nose. That is not very sporting in my book, although that technique isn't necessarily unique to nymphing. I'm guessing the allure in this, the age of short attention spans, is that in general the hookup ratio is higher than with the traditional swing; I doubt anyone would sincerely argue that from a purely esthetic standpoint nymphing is nearly as enjoyable. According to his Dry Line for Steelhead book, even Bill McMillan went through a nymphing stage during his formative years (using stonefly imitations, though I sincerely doubt he used an indicator), so it's not like the technique hasn't been around for a while. I think the guys who truly frown on nymphing for steelhead (like there is something ethically wrong with it) are really just in love with the long cast and pretty flies - not that there's anything wrong with being in love with those things (I am, after all), but I don't think we should confuse esthetics with ethics.
  5. ibn Moderator

    Posts: 1,885
    Federal Way
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    Gunna go against the grain here... I really enjoy nymphing, I also don't think it's as easy as some folks make it out to be. It's great for sightfishing, fishing from a boat, and hitting the small water. You can't tell me that watching a steelhead turn and chase down your egg as it drifts by is not thrilling to you, I dream about 2 things, sex, and that... :)

    I like to catch fish, it works for me, AND I have fun... :confused:

    -I
  6. Gabriel Burgi doesn't live in WA anymore :(

    Posts: 211
    Milton, FL
    Ratings: +0 / 0
    Isn't that what all flies are? Synthetics that mimic something real? If it's the simplicity that get's you, what about a San Juan worm?

    I do agree that modern flyfishing is not the traditional methods that you speak of, but hence the definition of modern...."not traditional".

    Personally, I go with what works, and my attitude at the moment. If I have had a long dry spell with no fish to hand, then I will probably go with a nymph setup (sometimes with and sometimes without an indicator). If I have been lucky recently, I will wet swing. If it's summertime, I'll go dries (I'm not quite proficient enough to match hatches of cool weather insects).

    But, to every rule there is an exception. In any one day, I might try all techniques, for proficiency and for variation. What's my final opinion? Eggs and indicators are very similar to gear. Do I use them? Yes. If I were on your side of the state fishing for native chrome, I would not--because that kind of fish deserves tradition, and I deserve the bragging rights.

    - Gabe :ray1:
  7. ssickle1 Slow and Low

    Posts: 171
    Hood River, OR
    Ratings: +0 / 0
    Dead drift presentation is the most natural approach. I think the bobber and jig guys are copying us not the other way around.
  8. Nailknot Active Member

    Posts: 1,896
    Cascadia
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    I'm only wishing for the traditional numbers of fish. Those old tymers had it easy! ;)
  9. Trevor New Member

    Posts: 341
    Poulsbo , WA
    Ratings: +0 / 0
    I started flyfishing because that's what caught fish. When a caddis or trico hatch was going on while your out on the South Platte, you wanted to have a caddis or trico dry fly somewhere in your aresenal, because that's what the fish were eating. When the hatch wasn't going on, you could still catch those critters using a nymph, because that's what the fish were eating. Add a splitshot to the leader and it works even better because it gets what they are eating down to where they are. Wooly buggers worked because they look like leeches that are in the lakes and rivers. A Mickey Finn works because it looks like a minnow. You could certainly fish all but the dries with a bobber, but as long as you were going to need the dries in the morning and the evening, why not just use the flyrod.

    Ahh, I was young and foolish. I fell in love with the rhythm of the cast, with the feel of the river rushing past, with the concentration to see the slightest twitch of the end of the line, with the hues that only the twilight can bring, the pursuit of the perfect cast, and of course, with the sound of a line ripping through the water connected to a hot fish. I fell in love with the chase wholesale and because of that, I have forsaken bait and other methods that I could use to try and kill more fish.

    I didn't know that there were rules to this long rod that I love. Heck, until I came up here, I thought the idea was to match what the fish were eating. If they were eating a specific bug, try and fish with something that looks like that bug. Do what it takes present it to the fish whereever they may be in a way that will fool them. I have used dry lines, sinking lines, splitshot, indicators, goo to make a fly float or sink better, and all manner of weighted and unweighted flies.

    Where did these rules come from? Why would someone snub someone else for a flesh or egg pattern if that's what the fish are eating? I'm not talking about using scent or other bait. I'm talking about bits of material and feathers lashed to a hook in a different configuration. How is a flesh pattern for a trout feeding on eggs and/or decaying flesh any different than using a #22 trico for trout feeding on little black insects? :confused:

    Trevor
  10. Jason Baker Member

    Posts: 776
    Ft. Mill, SC
    Ratings: +0 / 0
    Tom:

    Your topic is about as recycled as the boxes they use at Safeway. It was predictable: Ibn posts pictures of more steelhead then you have probably caught in your life, you need to justify it, and of course, you did!

    We all are trying to find some enjoyment and accomplishment in our fishing Tom. Go find yours. Please don't feel it necessary to hammer others in the pursuit of your own accomplishments. They will stand by themselves. You set your rules and let others set theirs!

    Nymphing is incredibly difficult to become great it. Gear fishing is not. I really do not see the difference in drifting a stonefly nymph or an egg. They both are naturally occuring and imitate a food source. I'd love to see you nymphing as you make it sound easy and a "sure-fire" way to hook fish. I once thought the same.....

    Your post was designed to stir up some controversy and it suceeded. :beathead:
  11. TomB Active Member

    Posts: 1,620
    seattle,wa
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    Wow guys.....i am truly impressed with some of the responses...especially Bob's first one (not trying to "hate" on the rest of them though either cuz they were good too). I guess I will have to do some more thinking on the subject.
    My interim conclusion though is that it doesn't matter how you fish as long as you derive enjoyment from it (and it isnt overly harmful to the fish). The line between flyfishing and gear seems to blur into a widening color palette of grays.
    -Thomas

    (edit: Jason....really wasnt about controversy...thats why i said i wasnt trying to put anyone down....just was thinking about the subject...and yes...that was more steelhead and nicer steelhead than i have caught in my life that ibn posted.....please dont take offense at what i said)
  12. Zen Piscator Supporting wild steelhead, gravel to gravel.

    Posts: 3,076
    Missoula, MT
    Ratings: +13 / 0
    Tom and others:
    I will say that jig and bobber fishing has been around for much longer than indicator fishing, or at least when it became popular. I like indicator or especially tightline nymphing for steelies and trout. I think you have a much better chance of flossing fish if you are swinging sinking lines at their level (see Jim Teeny) than nymphing. I have yet to likely floss a steelie, but living on the east side we tend to get steelies that act like trout, and tend to hit nymphs very hard. I could see how one could floss a steelie while nymphing, but it would be a feat in itself. I do not like fishing with indicators that are heavy, or even have to float for that matter. A wisp of yarn or a bit of bright fly line slipped over the leader does it. It doesn’t always float, and the flies will pull it down. But who cares, I can still see it, and that is important. I can tell if my flies are moving at the right speed or if they are dragging. If the indicator is moving slower that the surface water, that is good, even if that sentence was just a fragment...according to word. It means the flies are getting deep, into the slower currents, which is where I want them in the winter. The strike can be seen often with the line or leader with the indicator, so it is not so much a strike indicator as a general indicator. Firstly and most importantly it shows my drift. Sometimes I pick up strikes with it, sometimes not. It helps, but I could do without it. I have stopped fishing the corkie type indicators. Good god, casting one of those for a day really sucks! You can roll cast so much better with yarn anyways. Plus I would always forget toothpicks for the corkies when I used to fish them. I think tightline nymphing is pretty difficult, much more so than swinging. I like using challenging methods. It will keep me occupied during the long gaps between fish. Lastly, many of my favorite rivers are at 75-150cfs during the fall, which is a great time for fly fishing for steelies. Swinging doesn’t work so hot when the river is 15-30feet wide, if that... Being of a younger generation, I have less influence from traditional methods. However, I did catch my first steelie swinging a freight train. I enjoy Fly Fishing with the most challenging, productive method. I have found this to be tightline nymphing, with or without an indicator. I can see the allure of swinging a dry line for big native steelhead. But, we don’t have many of those in this corner of the state, so I will stick with what has and is working for me right now.

    Peace,
    Andy
  13. Jason Baker Member

    Posts: 776
    Ft. Mill, SC
    Ratings: +0 / 0
    Tom:

    Come on! "Pretend to be fly fishing" How do you see that as something that isn't negative?

    I may be a little sensitive here as well. I love nymphing, find it challenging, and certainly consider myself a fly fishermen.

    Sorry for the heat, but it touched a nerve that get's tweaked on the site quite a bit. bawling:
  14. TomB Active Member

    Posts: 1,620
    seattle,wa
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    You are right jason....that sentence needs to be rephrased in my original post.
    -T
  15. Jason Baker Member

    Posts: 776
    Ft. Mill, SC
    Ratings: +0 / 0

    Well said you young flyfishing machine. Great explanation of nymphing benefits and the conditions that make it not only fun, but necessary!
  16. Lostinwater80 New Member

    Posts: 48
    Bellingham Washington
    Ratings: +0 / 0
    I agree with bhudda, ssickle, ibn and Gabriel Burgi nymphing for steelhead and salmon for that matter can be very fun and better suited than swinging in certain types of water. I love to swing a fly too, theres nothing better than a take on a tight line, especially a dry line. I think there is a place for both, and when one method better suits the other I try to use it, plus it keeps the day interesting, ie using different techniques. During a day of trout fishing i like to switch between dry flys, nymphs, streamers, and swinging wet flys, Steelhead are just beatifull searun trout after all. Anyway relax and fish the way that makes you happy and quit worrying about how the other guys are, because it's likely that's what they are doing.




    Andrew
  17. TomB Active Member

    Posts: 1,620
    seattle,wa
    Ratings: +58 / 0
    Damage control:

    Please don't hate me guys....sometimes it takes sticking your neck out there and getting your head knocked to realize it shouldn't have been there in the first place.

    -Thomas
  18. Nailknot Active Member

    Posts: 1,896
    Cascadia
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    I can vouch for Tom's experiential nature- he actually took a canoe down the Sauk! So this stuff is kids play for him. Decent question though, even if it has been re-hashed a million times. Now Tom- tell the fellas about your canoe adventure?
  19. Zen Piscator Supporting wild steelhead, gravel to gravel.

    Posts: 3,076
    Missoula, MT
    Ratings: +13 / 0
    Tom,
    Im not trying to bash you. It is a valid topic and makes for great discussions in my opinion. Thanx for the post.

    Jason,
    Thank you. I think nymphing is a nessesary method in many cases, or atleast if you want to catch fish often.

    Peace,
    Andy
  20. cuponoodle breakfast gritty

    Posts: 1,655
    Arlington
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    Tom, did I see you in a red canoe on the Sauk Monday?